Most modeling in systems neuroscience has been descriptive where neural representations such as ‘receptive fields’, have been found by statistically correlating neural activity to sensory input. In the traditional physics approach to modelling, hypotheses are represented by mechanistic models based on the underlying building blocks of the system, and candidate models are validated by comparing with experiments. Until now validation of mechanistic cortical network models has been based on comparison with neuronal spikes, found from the high-frequency part of extracellular electrical potentials. In this computational study we investigated to what extent the low-frequency part of the signal, the local field potential (LFP), can be used to validate and infer properties of mechanistic cortical network models. In particular, we asked the question whether the LFP can be used to accurately estimate synaptic connection weights in the underlying network. We considered the thoroughly analysed Brunel network comprising an excitatory and an inhibitory population of recurrently connected integrate-and-fire (LIF) neurons. This model exhibits a high diversity of spiking network dynamics depending on the values of only three network parameters. The LFP generated by the network was computed using a hybrid scheme where spikes computed from the point-neuron network were replayed on biophysically detailed multicompartmental neurons. We assessed how accurately the three model parameters could be estimated from power spectra of stationary ‘background’ LFP signals by application of convolutional neural nets (CNNs). All network parameters could be very accurately estimated, suggesting that LFPs indeed can be used for network model validation.
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